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Helena, MT - Doorway By Doorway, Chabad Rabbi Seeks Montana's Jews

Published on: July 4, 2013 01:42 PM
By: AP
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In this June 30, 2013 photo, Rabbi Chaim Bruk, left, and Jake Matilsky affix a mezuzah to Matilsky's doorway in Helena, Mont. Bruk is traveling across Montana to hand out the parchments of biblical verses that identify Jewish homes, as a project to honor his grandmother who died earlier this year. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)In this June 30, 2013 photo, Rabbi Chaim Bruk, left, and Jake Matilsky affix a mezuzah to Matilsky's doorway in Helena, Mont. Bruk is traveling across Montana to hand out the parchments of biblical verses that identify Jewish homes, as a project to honor his grandmother who died earlier this year. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

Helena, MT -Montana’s small Jewish population is scattered across a huge state that has more rodeos than rabbis, but one man is logging thousands of miles to seek out the faithful one doorway at a time.

Rabbi Chaim Bruk has set his sights on making sure each Jewish home in Montana has a mezuzah at its entrance— and that those already hanging are kosher.

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Montana’s only orthodox rabbi sees the project as a way of connecting Jews to their traditions. He says the mezuzahs — small parchments of handwritten biblical verses, rolled into roughly 4-inch cases and fastened to door frames — are a reminder that God is the ultimate home protection in a state where many people believe that such security begins and ends with a gun.

“I’m young. I’m 31. I got a long life ahead of me — God willing — and I hope to get every house,” he says. “Montana should be the most protected state in the union. Not only because of our weapons but because of our mezuzahs. We’ll be protected by the Second Amendment and by the mezuzahs.”

After his grandmother died shortly before Passover this year at age 90, Bruk wanted to perform a mitzvah — a religious good deed — to honor her memory. So the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana secured funding from a relative to purchase an initial 200 mezuzahs to hand out for free.

Bruk says he has visited hundreds of Jewish homes in Montana and noticed too often that they either didn’t have mezuzahs or that those hanging didn’t adhere to Jewish law. He says he found text written on paper rather than parchment and cases hanging with no verses inside.

His mission is an ambitious one in a state with more than 147,000 square miles and a Jewish population estimated at 1,350 by the 2010 Census. Bruk scoffs at that number, which he believes is actually more than 3,000.

He has put up more than 30 mezuzahs in less than five weeks, traveling from Whitefish near Glacier National Park to Dillon in the southwestern part of the state. He has enlisted the help of two rabbinical students who are traveling in central and northeastern Montana.

In this June 30, 2013 photo, Rabbi Chaim Bruk speaks about his Montana mezuzah project in Helena, Mont. Bruk is traveling across Montana to hand out the parchments of biblical verses that identify Jewish homes, as a project to honor his grandmother who died earlier this year. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)In this June 30, 2013 photo, Rabbi Chaim Bruk speaks about his Montana mezuzah project in Helena, Mont. Bruk is traveling across Montana to hand out the parchments of biblical verses that identify Jewish homes, as a project to honor his grandmother who died earlier this year. (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

Bruk is getting the word out by social media, email blasts and his website, www.jewishmontana.com. He also calls those whose homes he knows don’t have mezuzahs.

That’s how Bruk came to install a mezuzah at the home of Jake Matilsky on Sunday. Matilsky moved to Helena from Boston about a year ago and got to know Bruk by occasionally going to the rabbi’s Shabbat dinners in Bozeman.

“I got a phone call. ‘Jake do you have a mezuzah on your door?’ ‘No, I don’t’. ‘Jake, you need a mezuzah on your door.’ And here we are today,” Matilsky said Sunday.

Bruk sped through a blessing while Matilsky pressed the 4-inch transparent case against his doorway, giving the adhesive time to stick to the wood.

Matilsky completed the brief ceremony by pressing his hand to his mouth and then to the case for the mezuzah’s inaugural kiss.

Just in time for his family’s arrival from New Jersey, Matilsky says.

“Now you’ll be very proud, your mother will see your mezuzah,” Bruk says.

Bruk drew smiles and naysayers when he and his wife, Chavie, moved from New York City to Montana in 2006. His fish-out-of-water status led to newspaper stories from Jerusalem to New York, where the Post called him “the kosher cowboy.”

That attention has had the effect of attracting people curious about his message and his programs, which include kosher certification for Montana food producers.

He has found Jews in Montana are “thirsting” for traditional Judaism, he says.

“It has opened up many doors, because people are just intrigued,” he says. “Our motto’s been baby steps. We’re not here to make people Orthodox. We’re here to make people comfortable with their traditional Jewish lifestyle.”


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1

 Jul 04, 2013 at 02:06 PM groiseneias Says:

Bruk is awesome! This is an inspiration!

2

 Jul 04, 2013 at 03:08 PM Anonymous Says:

I spent Shabbat in Helena two years ago. Chabad was too far from my hotel. I went in to a supermarket near the Chabad House and found a kosher section.

It wasn't gourmet or Meal Mart but I found wine, matzah, gefilte fish, and some fruit. There was plenty to eat.

Thanks Chabad.

3

 Jul 04, 2013 at 03:20 PM DRSLZ Says:

A wise relative of mine explained the success of Chabad thusly: unconditional love.
Would that more of us demonstrated unconditional love, aka ahavas chinam, to everyone. (This is not to suggest that one's aim should not be to encourage not-yet-frum Yidden to become frum.)

4

 Jul 04, 2013 at 07:03 PM Avraham Says:

From the contingent out in Culbertson MT, we thank R Chaim for all his help, open house, and beautiful, meaningful, shabbos outings. Bracha Vehatzlacha

5

 Jul 04, 2013 at 07:03 PM You want to know why chabad succeeds? Says:

Reply to #3  
DRSLZ Says:

A wise relative of mine explained the success of Chabad thusly: unconditional love.
Would that more of us demonstrated unconditional love, aka ahavas chinam, to everyone. (This is not to suggest that one's aim should not be to encourage not-yet-frum Yidden to become frum.)

Let me tell you something: chabad has no special method of kiruv rechokim. So you may wonder, why are they so successful? It has NOTHING to do with the chabad individuals, it is because they had a Rebbe who gave these chassidim magical kochos. That's right - it is magical kochos from their Rebbe! He gave them celestial kochos from shamayim. That is how they are able to do things like live in Montana, something that any normal yidden with poshut kochos just cannot do.

6

 Jul 04, 2013 at 08:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
You want to know why chabad succeeds? Says:

Let me tell you something: chabad has no special method of kiruv rechokim. So you may wonder, why are they so successful? It has NOTHING to do with the chabad individuals, it is because they had a Rebbe who gave these chassidim magical kochos. That's right - it is magical kochos from their Rebbe! He gave them celestial kochos from shamayim. That is how they are able to do things like live in Montana, something that any normal yidden with poshut kochos just cannot do.

'Magical kochos'. That's one way to describe it. Another is they are very very serious at kiruv. They are networked like crazy. Furthermore they have unlimited resources. They are also trained by professionals like you would be trained at a company. Kudos to them though bc if bring yidden closer to TORAH then they deserve it!

7

 Jul 04, 2013 at 11:55 PM cocoaman Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

'Magical kochos'. That's one way to describe it. Another is they are very very serious at kiruv. They are networked like crazy. Furthermore they have unlimited resources. They are also trained by professionals like you would be trained at a company. Kudos to them though bc if bring yidden closer to TORAH then they deserve it!

#6- please tell me how a 24-25 year guy,married for a year, finished his yeshiva schooling/smicha right before marriage is trained.
you are incorrect. they pack their boxes and suitcases and siyata dishmaya and GO!!! they have no formal kiruv training, they only follow the Rebbe's directives and THAT is how they are bh successful!

8

 Jul 05, 2013 at 04:26 AM SilverNGold Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

'Magical kochos'. That's one way to describe it. Another is they are very very serious at kiruv. They are networked like crazy. Furthermore they have unlimited resources. They are also trained by professionals like you would be trained at a company. Kudos to them though bc if bring yidden closer to TORAH then they deserve it!

I promise you they are not trained at all. There is absolutely no kiruv "training" in the Chabad world whatsoever. They are powered by their Rebbe and driven by unbounded love for every Jew.

9

 Jul 05, 2013 at 09:41 AM Dr. Y. Levine Says:

Bruk is quoted in the article as follows:

“I’m young. I’m 31. I got a long life ahead of me — God willing — and I hope to get every house,” he says. “Montana should be the most protected state in the union. Not only because of our weapons but because of our mezuzahs. We’ll be protected by the Second Amendment and by the mezuzahs.”

He is mistaken in his belief that a mezuzah is some sort of protective amulet.

The following is from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on Devarim 6

9 And write them upon the [door-]posts of your house and upon your gates.

The mezuzah is not an amulet; in and of itself, it does not protect the
house. Only insofar as they shape their lives in accordance with the mezuzah’s
content can the people within the house expect help and protection
from God, the “All-Sovereign and All-Sufficing,” in all the vicissitudes
of domestic life. With this intent it is our custom to adorn the
outside of the mezuzah with the Name Shin-Daled Yud.

10

 Jul 05, 2013 at 09:51 AM Reply to 7&8 Says:

Their most certainly is training! Look its not a bad thing. They take it seriously! I also AGREE w you that they have tremendous mesiras nefesh. That's probably why they have hatzlacha! But that doesn't mean you have to turn a blind eye on their tremendous heshtadlus!

Also I said they are amazingly networked and have a a base on 770 that gives a lot of resources to each Chabad house.
For example how does this fine young rabbi know who's a yid?? You mean to tell me he goes from door to door?? Even if he does what about the yidden that don't have a mezuzah? Does each Chbad rabbi have ruach hakodesh?? Rather he must generate some sort of list. That's no small fry.
Again I'm not belittling it in any way. I'm just saying they go about it w a lot of mesiras nefesh AND training and resources.

11

 Jul 05, 2013 at 11:05 AM SilverNGold Says:

Reply to #10  
Reply to 7&8 Says:

Their most certainly is training! Look its not a bad thing. They take it seriously! I also AGREE w you that they have tremendous mesiras nefesh. That's probably why they have hatzlacha! But that doesn't mean you have to turn a blind eye on their tremendous heshtadlus!

Also I said they are amazingly networked and have a a base on 770 that gives a lot of resources to each Chabad house.
For example how does this fine young rabbi know who's a yid?? You mean to tell me he goes from door to door?? Even if he does what about the yidden that don't have a mezuzah? Does each Chbad rabbi have ruach hakodesh?? Rather he must generate some sort of list. That's no small fry.
Again I'm not belittling it in any way. I'm just saying they go about it w a lot of mesiras nefesh AND training and resources.

I understand you're not belittling Chabad's mesiras nefesh, and I appreciate it. But I do know you are innocently mistaken. This rabbi was not going around looking for homes with mezuzos on them - he is the one putting the mezuzos up. I became frum through the Chabad shliach in Austin, Texas. I became very close with him and know him and others now very well. Neither myself nor any of the many others who became baalei teshuva through him were ever found with any kind of list whatsoever. He publicized himself as much as possible to the local Jewish population and attracted many Jews this way and with limitless unbounded love. Neither he nor any of the many shluchim I have ever met ever recieved any kind of formal training. Some of them don't even speak excellent English, but they pour their heart and soul into every Jew they come across to the extent that those kinds of things don't even matter. I invite you to come (or come back) to 770 and see that no training or master lists of Jews exists. Again, I mean my comment respectfully as I know you did as well.

12

 Jul 05, 2013 at 12:51 PM Magical Kochos Says:

I somewhat agree with #5, the Chabad success is clearly attributed to syata dishmaya which comes from their Rebbe ZT"L giving them "celestial" kochos.

I honestly believe if our own Gedolim would be pushing kiruv rechokim as much as the Lubavitcher Rebbe made it a priority, we would also experience the exact same syata dishmaya, maybe even more. The proof is - look. our Gedolim push Limud Hatorah and long term Kollel and in THIS area we have "magical kochos" too!!

13

 Jul 05, 2013 at 01:23 PM Siyata Dishma'ayah Says:

Many kofrim try to explain kriyas yam suf as a "natural" phenomenon. That Moshe Rabbeinu knew the nature of the tides etc. We know it was a ness that HKB"H gave siyata dishma'ayah to am Yisroel.

I read the comments which others try to explain the success of Chabad in Kiruv (which is a difficult as kriyas yam suf) as a "natural" phenomenon: they have special training, connections, resources etc.

I find that these explanations fall short and hold "as much water" as the natural expkanations of kriyas yam suf.

14

 Jul 06, 2013 at 10:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Siyata Dishma'ayah Says:

Many kofrim try to explain kriyas yam suf as a "natural" phenomenon. That Moshe Rabbeinu knew the nature of the tides etc. We know it was a ness that HKB"H gave siyata dishma'ayah to am Yisroel.

I read the comments which others try to explain the success of Chabad in Kiruv (which is a difficult as kriyas yam suf) as a "natural" phenomenon: they have special training, connections, resources etc.

I find that these explanations fall short and hold "as much water" as the natural expkanations of kriyas yam suf.

Your a meshugana! Theirs is something called נסים and theirs something called טבע. Now granted I believe w complete faith Hashem controls the world and all of טבע. If I still say theirs is such a thing as natural laws that Hashem put into place and only exist every second bc of his will, do I not believe in קרית ים סוף??

So yes chabad

15

 Jul 08, 2013 at 03:44 PM Teva vs. Nissim Says:

Reply to #14  
Anonymous Says:

Your a meshugana! Theirs is something called נסים and theirs something called טבע. Now granted I believe w complete faith Hashem controls the world and all of טבע. If I still say theirs is such a thing as natural laws that Hashem put into place and only exist every second bc of his will, do I not believe in קרית ים סוף??

So yes chabad

Kriyas yam suf is no greater ness than the birth of a child or a sunrise, but one happens everyday so it is "natural" while the other never happens so it is "unnatural". Kiruv was once a rare event, like kriyas yam suf, but now it takes place more often than a sunrise, so it is teva. Chabad's success at kiruv was at first a ness, like kriyas yam suf, but with the continued and on going success, it became natural but each neshama saved is still a miracle min hashomayim. We must recognize this and say hallel when we see such nissim.

16

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